A criminal complaint filed against former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for allegedly groping an aide at the governor’s mansion is “potentially defective” after the sheriff’s office prematurely filed the charge without including a sworn statement from a victim to move forward with prosecution, according to a district attorney.
In a letter to a judge in Albany County, district attorney David Soares criticised Sheriff Craig Apple for “unilaterally and inexplicably” filing the complaint last week without first speaking with his office, which was investigating the case for “several months”.
“Unfortunately, the filings in this matter are potentially defective in that the police-officer-complainant failed to include a sworn statement by the victim such that [the office] could proceed with a prosecution on these papers,” Mr Soares said in the letter, dated 4 November. He added that the alleged mistakes could be “exculpatory.”
Mr Cuomo – who resigned from his third term in office in August following widespread allegations of sexual harassment and abuse and the likelihood of a weeks-long impeachment investigation – was set to appear in court for his arraignment on 17 November.
Judge Holly Trexler moved his appearance to 7 January, 2022, after the district attorney’s office requested a delay “to reduce the risk of a procedural dismissal of this case” and to give the district attorney more time to review it.
The district attorney’s letter underscored the criticism and confusion among law enforcement agencies and officials in handling what would otherwise be a well-coordinated effort among agencies, particularly with a high-profile case like Mr Cuomo.
A complaint from the Albany County Sheriff’s Office alleges that Mr Cuomo “forcibly place[d] his hand under the blouse shirt of the victim” while at the governor’s mansion on 7 December, 2020 “for the purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires.”
The charge of “forcible touching” is a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to one year in prison, if convicted.
Last week, Sheriff Apple admitted his surprise at how fast the case moved through the court system. He told reporters that “if we consulted with the district attorney on every misdemeanor there would be no justice in this county.”
“Would I have liked to? Absolutely,” he said. “Everything moved too fast … but needless to say, as far as the case goes, it has no effect on the case. Our victim is cooperative, and we’re moving forward.”
He added that the evidence against Mr Cuomo is “overwhelming.”
A bombshell report in August that followed an investigation under the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James accused Mr Cuomo of “engaging in unwelcome and nonconsensual touching, as well as making numerous offensive comments of a suggestive and sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women.”
Mr Soares said the sheriff’s complaint relied mostly on a portion of the testimony the alleged victim gave to the attorney general as part of that investigation, and that it is “even more troubling” that the sheriff’s office “excluded other portions of her testimony where she described the very same acts described in the complaint.”
He also said the sheriff’s complaint “misstates the relevant law”.
Ms James – who recently announced her intention to run for governor – said the charges filed last week “validate the findings in our report.”
The former governor has repeatedly denied allegations of sexual harassment; in his farewell remarks before leaving office, he dismissed allegations as politically motivated.
Mr Cuomo’s spokesperson Rich Azzopardi has accused the attorney general of using her office to “attack the governor for political benefit” and that Mr Apple is “seeking headlines and not justice.”